Two fish give a much-needed boost

Luke Palmer

Looking back at the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Murray, I have to say, it feels good to finish on the right side of the cutline. That’s always a good thing, but making the cut and finishing 26th gave me a much-needed boost.

I came off a spectacular year where I had a good Northern Swing, I won my first tournament and everything was really setting up well. I was really pumped up this year coming in, and a lot of the tournaments really set up well for me.

I started this season with a Top 10 at Toledo Bend, and I’m like, “This is going to be that year.” I’m looking at a potential Bassmaster Angler of the Year, and then it was like I hit a brick wall.

I had a bad finish at the next event at Lake Fork. The Bassmaster Classic was OK, but 21st place was not ideal for me. Then, I turn around and have a few more terrible finishes.

It was beginning to get very frustrating. I was around fish, but they would not stay hooked up. So, to make a cut and get a good check right before we have several weeks off was really big for me.

I was farther back in the points than I’ve ever been in my career. I started wondering if I’d make the Classic — that’s the main goal for me.

I was getting really nervous, because a tournament here, a missed cut there is another opportunity to make points. When this happens, you start second guessing yourself.

Having a good finish at Lake Murray was crucial for me. It was definitely a much-needed check, and to get on the right side of the cut makes you feel a lot better.

After Murray, I’m just a few points outside the Classic cut. A couple good tournaments and I’ll be right there in it.

What’s most important is the momentum a good finish brings. This is the turning point in the season; this is where you can make it or break it. You could have two or three good finishes, and you’re going to make the Classic. Or, you could have a good finish and two bad ones and be right there at the cutline to not making the Classic.

The stress level gets high because you have obligations; you have sponsors. If you have a couple of bad years, you can start losing sponsor dollars. Whereas, if you have a couple of good years, your sponsor dollars can increase.

Making cuts is how you make money and make the Classic. That’s the goal every year.

On Murray, I caught many of my fish flipping stumps and grass edges with a YUM Finesse Worm on a drop shot, along with a Super Spook Jr. I caught my biggest one — a 7-4 — on a topwater. That was pretty neat.

It completely changed my whole day. I gained 20 to 30 points off that one fish.

I had a big fish on Day 2 — a 5-13 — that got me into the cut. I went from an 80th place to 26th on those two catches.

Those big fish led me in the right direction. I was getting down on myself because everything was going wrong — there was nothing going right. It was bad finish after bad finish.

Those two fish gave me my confidence back for the rest of the season.